Wednesday, January 31, 2007

News for Today...

1) Tatas buy Anglo-Dutch Corus to become the fifth largest steel maker in the world. The deal comes close on the heels of Mittal Steel's successful acquisition of Arcelor. Do you know how much Tata Steel paid? Around 50,000 Crore Rupees in an all-cash deal!
2) Sidney Sheldon dies.
3) India win Pepsi Cup beating WI 3-1. Dada scores 68, Dravid 78 and Tendulkar gets a quickfire unbeaten 100.
4) Rocky returns with Rocky Balboa. Did you know Sylvestor Stallone is 64 years old?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Saga of the Credit Card - 3

Finally, some exciting news. The credit card frauds have been busted! Times of India reported a couple of days back that the gang had been apprehended by the Economic Offences Wing of the police, which took charge of the case after a complaint by Kingfisher Airlines. The EOW tracked the IP address used for making the online purchases to a cybercafe in Antop Hill, and apprehended most of the members of the gang.

According to the report, mostly (only?) ICICI credit cards were used, which makes me wonder if the information was supplied to these frauds from inside!

All I need now is for the charge on my card to be revised, and I can be a happy credit card user once again!

Movie Review: Salaam-e-Ishq

Watch it only if you:
1) Have 4 hours, and nothing better to do (in which case you must be having a really boring life!)
2) Are a die hard fan of Priyanka and can tolerate her no matter what she does - to be fair to her, she does have a couple of watchable scenes!
3) Like to see Salman without his shirt, and all the hair from his shirt stuck on his head - Quiz: In which movie did Salman not take off his shirt?
4) Like to see Anjanaa in her white hot pants (now THAT's a VERY VALID REASON!!!)
5) Like to see Juhi play the auntie in smart clothes
6) Love Ayesha Takia - and yes, though she gets only about 10 mins of screen time, she is very adorable yet again
7) Don't mind seeing Akshaye Khanna and John Abraham mis-lip-synching to voices that DO NOT match them
8) Cannot afford to miss a Vidya Balan movie - even if she is crying and looking miserable most of the time and making out the rest of the time
9) Want to see Govinda live his dream and shout "Maydam, I Love You" to a firang (talk about racism!)
10) You still need more reasons???

Friday, January 26, 2007

Monkey, Two Clothed Cats and the Mouse-on-the-Laptop

That's what greeted us when we arrived in Nerul yesterday.

First the cats! They had an operation a week back to get rid of their reproductive capabilities, and had to be dressed up to prevent infection while the wounds healed. Sorry, but we had to do it after they both got raped in their cat-teens in quick succession giving birth to 3 kittens each leading to a population explosion of the feline kind leading to fears of them taking over Bhobe Estate and turning us into their pets for on-demand-purring-in-return-for-patting!

And the mouse! Check it out in the pic! Looks real? Well it should - it is!

And finally the monkey. On the roof, jumping and breaking tiles, this ancestor seems to have taken a sudden interest in having a closer look at some of his more innocent, feet-firmly-on-the-ground relatives!

Happy Republic Day!

Here's wishing all my readers a very Happy Republic Day! :)

Did you watch the parade today? The precision in which the parade is held is awesome - the dignitaries arrive in such a regal procession, and the flag hoisting starts on the dot at 10.00 am. Russian President Vladimir Putin was the guest of honour this year. It was such an awesome spectacle - The tanks, the Brahmos missiles, the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher, the cool stuff from DRDO, and the marching contigents and military bands, followed by the cultural tableaus. The contingents included the oldest Indian regiment (the 61st Cavalry, formed in 1773, and now the President's Body Guards, and the only remaining horsed regiment in the world today) as well as the world's only camel-mounted military band. Also impressive were the commandos of the parachute regiment double-marching, literally jumping in place instead of walking - with those heavy guns, it was amazing how much energy they must be putting into the entire parade! Also a first this year - one of the contingents was led by a foreigner, Captain Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, grandson of the Sultan of Johar, a state in Malaysia. He was commissioned in the army after passing out from the IMA, Dehradun two years ago.

The Saga of the Credit Card - 2

After the initial shock had worn off, a couple of interesting things happened in the last two days.

Firstly, I was surprised to find a comment on my earlier blog assuring me on behalf of MMT that the issue would be resolved and I would not have to pay the charges! Later in the evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find that's finance manager, Abhishek, had made that comment - when asked how he came to my blog, he replied that they subscribed to the appropriate Google alerts to make sure they were in touch with what people were saying about MMT! I like that attitude - very positive! :)

Anyway, so Abhishek assured me that they were trying to nail down the culprits - apparently, they have come across some other cards that have been used, and all of them happen to be from around the Pune area. We discussed possible places where the cards could have been copied... however, later I realised, it's not that difficult at all. Any place you swap, already has information about your name and card number, and expiry date. All they need is to note down the 3 digit authorization number on the back! So one lesson from this - scratch out the auth number from the back of the card, and you can prevent a lot more frauds on your card.

Next morning, I happened to read the TOI, and there was an article on the fraud - the exact same situation, where someone has apparently been using multiple credit cards, to do the same thing as they did with me - book airline tickets! Wierd - I would assume that booking airline tickets would easily expose you (through the passengers who could be easily tracked at the airport). But then, I guess there's not much you can buy online in India right now anyway!

Now I need to fax across a Customer Dispute Form to ICICI, and wait for the "maximum 60 days" for the dispute to be resolved. And wait and see how MMT and ICICI go about "resolving" this issue - does it only cancel the tickets and give me back my money, or does it have the wherewittal to go after the culprits and bring them to book!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Saga of the Credit Card

Well, we have all heard those warnings about identity theft, electronic fraud, and people using your bank account information to rob you.

Well, it (almost?) happened to me today!

At 743 pm, I got an SMS from ICICI Bank (that's one good thing they do - they inform you whenever you make any significant purchase on the card) saying that I had made a purchase of 53,360 on my credit card at I immediately called the bank helpline, and the person said that I should wait a couple of days for the purchase to be billed to me before raising a dispute request. Apparently, he could see the charge, but it had not been "billed" to me yet, and hence he could not raise the request. I got pissed, and asked them to cancel my card immediately.

Next, I called They were a lot more concerned, and found that apparently someone by the name Rahul Singh had booked 4 passengers (Fakruddin, Azharuddin and 2 others) on some Air India flight using a total of 3 different cards to make a total purchase of around 98,000!

So the current state of affairs is that I have got my cards cancelled, I will raise the dispute request tomorrow, and will apparently initiate some action on their side.

Keep watching this space for updates, and keep your credit cards off the net!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Met Frank and Joe Hardy :)

Any teenager worth his age would know who I am talking about!

Frank and Joe Hardy, from the Hardy Boys - college kids freelancing as amateur detectives, were my heroes when I was 16. My cousin and I read Hardy Boys by the dozens. At last count, I had crossed 100. We kept track of their lives, we knew each and every family member and friend they had, we were almost in love with their girl friends Callie and Iola!

I met them today.

Well, not exactly! Instead, I met John Frazzini and Bryan Palma, two ex US Secret Service Special Agents, who have been part of the US President's Security Team, and are now potential clients. Both in their late thirties, they would be exactly what age Frank and Joe would be by now :) And yes, one of them has dark hair and the other is blonde! I spent 3 hours driving them around Pune today.

And yes, they are all I would expect Frank and Joe to be :)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Movie Review: Risk

Some movies are predictable, some are boring. Risk is both.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Self Appraisal

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in seven digits.The store-owner observed and listened to the conversation.

The boy asked, "Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?" The woman replied, "I already have someone to cut my lawn." "Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now." replied boy. The woman responded that she was very satisfied with the person who was presently cutting her lawn.

The little boy found more perseverance and offered, "Lady, I'll even sweep your curb and your sidewalk, so on Sunday you will have the prettiest lawn in all of North Palm Beach, Florida."Again the woman answered in the negative.

With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver.

The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy and said, "Son... I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job."

The little boy replied, "No thanks, I was just checking my performance and the job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady, I was talking to !"

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Movie Review: Guru

Guru is the story of Gurukanth Desai, a village boy from Gujarat who seeks glory and fame as a businessman, starting as a salesman in Turkey selling petroleum cans, and then coming back to India to ultimately create and lead India's biggest company. It's the story of his struggles against the prejudices of a newly liberated India against the "middle class", his fights against the license raj, his rapid ascent through means not always completely legal, his war against a "ethically minded" reporter who vows to bring him down, his showdown with a inquiry commission and loss of faith with investors, till he finally rises as a Phoenix from the ashes as the "Bapu who fought for the freedom of the middle class and the country against the government that tried to hold it back". And yes, you guessed it, it's supposed to be based on the life of Dhirubhai Ambani!

The movie delivers in bits and pieces, but was generally a disappointment. The story lacks punch, that extra zing. Abhishek is good in the later parts of the movie, as the paralysis-striken 40-something Guru, but fails to bring across his vision and zeal in the first half in a role that would have perhaps been best played by the King Khan! Check out the way he laughs during the final scene in the stadium - the manic joy on his face comes across beautifully, and thrills with it's devilishness. Aishwarya - well, she is surprisingly restrained in the movie, and after Dhoom 2, is actually tolerable, when she doesn't dance or cry or start with her histrionics. Madhavan and Vidya Balan look lost and are completely wasted. Mithunda is a surprise - never thought he could act this well!

The best part of the movie is the cinematography and the period feel of the movie. Whether it is the kapada market in Mumbai with the quaint cars, or the Gujarat countryside, the smell and the dampness actually chills you to the bone! (Or maybe it was just the AC!) The Humdum theme song is beautifully done - and adds a lot of atmosphere to the movie.

Overall, a can-watch, but don't expect too much!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Book Review: Neither Here, Nor There

Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There is a sweet, funny account of his travels through Europe - from the endless nights of Hammerfest to the dusty streets of Italy, from the boring people of Switzerland and Sweden, to the fun loving population of Copenhagen, the good, the bad and the ugly, Bill captures the sights and smells of Europe in a very unique way.

So happy was I on reading NHNT that I went ahead and bought four more of his travelogues based on his trips through the US, UK and Austraaaliaaa. Keep a watch here for more on Bill Bryson, but for now, grab a copy of NHNT and soak in the European experience!

Movie Review: Bhaagam Bhaag

Bhaagam Bhaag is an interesting movie - lots of slap stick comedy of the college festivals genre, a sudden, shocking twist in the story just before intermission and a deepening suspense in the second half, before ending on a laugh-till-the-guts-spill-out note.

Govinda and Akshaye Kumar work in a drama troupe, on a one month tour of London. Assigned the task of finding a heroine, they team up with Gullu the taxi driver(Rajpal yadav) before stumbling upon a silly gang supplying heroin "pudiyas", get mixed up in a murder, take panga with the London Metropolitan Police led by Jackie Shroff, rescue a damsel in distress (Lara Dutta), and get chased around town by a local goonda and his hencemen led by Shakti Kapoor. Every situation is hilarious until and after a suicidal Lara is "burnt to death", and her "husband" is murdered, before Lara starts to "reappear" all over London. Of course, all pieces fall into place before a hilarious end scene, a rip off from the famous fire engine scene from "It's a Mad Mad Mad World".

I enjoyed the "Pyaar ka Signaaal" rendition by Remo in the opening credits, with a scantily (and I must say, unfortunately, not very tastefully) dressed "chocolate" Tanushree Dutta as eye candy. "Ab toh akele mein, jiya jaaye na..." is another beautiful song, and Lara looks absolutely stunning while giving us a mini tour of London. And the icing on the cake - the centerpiece of attraction - a silver Ford Fiesta that absolutely hugged my attention whenever it burst onto the screen :)

Keep your thinking at home, and go enjoy the movie - you will come out happy and humming, and looking forward to some more bhaagam bhaag in your life!

Dada has Arrived!

Like a new baby, Sourav Ganguly came back into the Indian team exactly after nine months. But his arrival wasn’t marked by joy or euphoria; rather, it was greeted with skepticism and cynical laughs. Nobody really knew how Ganguly would blend with the others; nobody dared to think how the old differences would be tackled. Worse, nobody really believed he would last long on the hard and bouncy pitches here against express speed and raw aggression.

In the practice game at Potchefstroom, just three days after reaching here, the worst fears came true: Ganguly blinked into a rasping bouncer. He looked dazed, completely shaken and not up to it. This is it, even his own admirers whispered. But Ganguly steadied himself and was more than ready for the next bouncer. He went on to make a most extraordinary 83; he may have missed out on the first century of the tour but his knock became the rallying point for India. Since then, of course, Ganguly has got hit in virtually every other match; he has taken blows on his body, on his shoulder and on his elbow too. He flinched almost every time but he didn’t look harried or uncomfortable like he used to earlier; if anything he looked much more determined and eager to keep going. Indeed, he batted much better after each hit.

That, according to people close to him, is his new philosophy: ‘‘It’s better to get hit than to get out.’’ It has worked perfectly for him. More importantly, for the statistically-minded, he is the highest run-getter for India in this series. This second coming, of course, wasn’t easy; it has come after months of immense pain, tribulations and a million doubts. In fact, every single former cricketer and expert was absolutely sure that he was finished as a player; he alone believed that he still had a few days left in him.

So while the Indian team floundered, and the world laughed, he worked hard on his fitness, corrected his thought process and waited for his turn. Three tests later, not only has he proved everybody wrong, he has also scored more runs than anybody else. Now, there is no doubt that he will be back in the One-day side too.

Dada has arrived. He was discarded by his own team, his own friends, and indeed, his country. People laughed at him, and joked about him. But he fought his lonely battle, and he won. That's why, he is my hero.

(Adapted from the Times of India)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Movie Review: Museum Ke Andar Fas Gaya Sikandar

Yes, silly title.. whoever thought of it??? Oh, it's a Ben Stiller movie dubbed in Hindi.. gawd, not one more!!! Well, that was my reaction too when I realised that "Night at the Museum" was only being released in Hindi in India.. but hey, watch it, and chances are, you will love it :)

A simple, kiddish story about a museum that comes alive at night, with Ben Stiller the desperate dad with a night watchman's job - but extremely well presented. Very sweet, actually. And the icing on the cake - the Hindi dubbing! Not only is it done extremely well, but the adapted dialogues actually add tremendously to the entertainment value of the movie.

Go see it.